3 Unexpected Places to Look for Your Important To-Dos
During a virtual meeting with my team, my laptop was running loud and slow. While I struggled to share my screen over the noise of my fan, one of my virtual assistants suggested I might have too many tabs open. “Who ME????” Yes, ME.
Whether or not you faithfully use a digital or paper planner, you might have some unrecorded and tasks lurking in hidden places. Here are three unexpected places to look for your important to-dos and tips for managing them.
Although I am a professional organizer and help people organize their digital lives, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with tab-mania myself. A single project might require opening up multiple tabs to access programs, do some research, and keep up with email and virtual meetings. As I move through tasks, those tabs multiply and often don’t get closed in a timely manner.
On this occasion, so many tabs were open in my browser that I couldn’t even make out the favicons, those tiny branding images on browser tabs. In fact, a click of the drop-down arrow at the end of the row showed even more tabs open.
As soon as we finished our meeting, I started clicking and closing tabs. I also found myself writing in my planner. One tab reminded me I needed to finish some research. Another prompted an idea for a yet-to-be-written blog post. And yet another was a PDF of an online receipt I needed to save. Those tabs were important to-dos! Anything that took just a few minutes ago, I took care of immediately.
Perhaps neglected open tabs in your browser are unrecorded tasks for your to-do list. Like a tactful Apple store employee once told me, “Just like you need rest, so does your laptop. Turn it off at night.”
So I challenge you: Every night for a week, close all your tabs. That’s right, all of them. You can “pin” those you use daily (right-click on the tab) so they open when you restart your computer, or bookmark them so you don’t need to search. Either way, you will save time. Wait, did you catch the word, restart? Yes, shut that baby down for the night.
- If you are not already doing so on a regular basis, pick one day a week to check for and run program updates, clear out cookies and caches (see the settings for your browser).
- Check your device’s trash or recycle bin for items that can be permanently deleted. Until you do, items still take up space.
- Check your device’s battery life and available storage. I can’t cover directions for all types here, but you can find them by searching for “how to check battery health/available storage on _____.”
Your browser is just one place your important to-do’s might be hiding. Here are two more places:
Occasionally my voicemail is full and I have to clear it out. Every single message is something I need to do. The car repair shop now has a part that I’ve been waiting on, so I need to schedule a an appointment. My mother sang “Happy Birthday” on another message and I want to save it to my cloud storage. Another message reminds a prescription is ready for pickup. That’s an errand to the pharmacy. All of these are tasks that need to go on my list of important to-dos.
- If your phone had to be reset and you lost your voicemails, are there any you would be sad about losing? Download happy-memory messages you want to save to cloud storage. I am so happy I downloaded voicemails of my parents serenading me with “Happy Birthday” together. Since my father passed away, it is a comforting memento.
- Check your voicemail greeting. You may wish to say something different or rerecord using a better microphone.
- When you delete messages, they might still exist in a deleted folder. Empty the deleted folder to make room on your device.
Scraps of paper
If you frequently write on sticky notes, scraps of paper, and/or notepads, then you might be a “paper planner” person. As much as I love technology for its efficiency, I use Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to keep track of my important to-dos. I love the feel of pen-to-paper and checking things off with a flourish. Clicking and swiping on a to-do app just doesn’t give me the same satisfaction, no matter how nice the interface is.
Sometimes I catch myself writing on sticky notes or notepads when on calls or webinars. I make a point of checking for these hidden to-dos on my desk at least weekly, putting them in the right spot in my planner. Often I make these temporary notes because I’m not quite sure when or if I am going to tackle them. The solution for this is a “grasscatcher list,” a master list of to-dos that aren’t urgent but shouldn’t be forgotten. Mine is in the back of my quarterly planner and I do a serious list sweep monthly and quarterly to weed that list down. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system refers to this as a “Someday Maybe” list.
- If you must write on a scrap of paper in a pinch, add the date. This will give you some frame of reference for what the note was about, if it is still relevant or even needed, when you come across it.
- Before phone calls and meetings, determine the best place to record notes. I prefer paper planners with a two-page daily spread that includes a notes page for this reason. For client consultations, I have an intake form ready. The same goes for virtual coffees. I love using forms and creating them for my clients!
- Use traditional phone message pads with a carbon copy feature to record voicemails and take calls. Fill in all the prompts for information. This can clear up half of your random note clutter!
Open browser tabs, voicemails, and scraps of paper are just a few of the unexpected places to look for your important to-dos. This digital and paper clutter can be prompts for tasks and they can pile up if not dealt with. Take care of them immediately or record in your planning system. Better yet, if not needed, delegate or discard.
Three things to do on a regular basis (think daily, every other day, or at least weekly):
- Check your browser for open tabs and close them. If you need to access certain sites regularly, pin them or bookmark them.
- Check your voicemail and clean it out, or at least add them to your to-do list and delete messages as you take care of them.
- Corral loose notes and record them where they will be most useful.
With all your browser tabs closed, your voicemails cleared, and random notes recorded, you will get a good night’s sleep, and so will your laptop.
So, how many tabs are open on your device as you read this?
Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Coach
Zen Your Den® and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO